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Development Sociology Major & Minor

Better understand the world, so you can better it

The Department of Global Development at Cornell University is a global leader in purpose-driven social science. Our professors, researchers and outreach specialists are committed to improving communities in New York state and around the world. You can join the next generation of change-makers and conduct research on diverse aspects of development, including governance, population dynamics, environmental change and food systems.

The Development Sociology major welcomed its final class of first-year students in the Fall of 2021. We will be accepting sophomore transfers through the Spring of 2022 and junior transfers through the Fall of 2022. We encourage students interested in this program to explore the new Global Development major, which is accepting first-year students for Fall of 2022.

Major in Development Sociology

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Students majoring in Development Sociology gain an understanding in societal development and factors to solve social problems, both local and global. The Department of Global Development (formerly the Department of Development Sociology) has a unique program profile that is unmatched by any other departments of sociology in the nation. 

We provide close mentorship and opportunities for active, engaged and experiential learning for the next generation of change-makers and cutting-edge researchers. Recent undergraduate research topics include the reproductive differences between Muslim and non-Muslim women in Africa and the schooling and social networks of HIV/AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe.

The department is well known for international, domestic, rural, environmental, agricultural and population studies. Faculty and students in the department conduct theoretical and applied research, teaching and outreach on the causes, dynamics and consequences of social, cultural, political and economic change.

Development Sociology majors study how societies develop and identify the social pathways that can help build a successful career.

CALS seeks students who maintain a rigorous high school curriculum and demonstrate an outstanding record of academic achievement.

  • 4 Units of English

  • 4 Units of Mathematics (including pre-calculus)

  • 3 Units of Science (biology, chemistry and physics recommended)

  • Also recommended: social science coursework; statistics

Studying how societies develop can provides useful insights that can enrich other areas of study.

All Development Sociology majors are required to complete the following courses with a grade of "C-" or higher:

  • SOC/DSOC 1101 Introduction to Sociology (Spring 2022 was the last offering of DSOC 1101)
  • GDEV/DSOC 2010 Population Dynamics (Offered Fall only, but in 2022-2023 only offered Spring 2023)
  • DSOC 2050 International Development or GDEV/DSOC/IARD 1102 Introduction to Global Development (Fall 2021 was the last offering of DSOC 2050, GDEV 1102 is offered Fall only)
  • GDEV/DSOC 3010 Theories of Society and Development (Offered Fall only, but not offered 2022-2023)
  • GDEV/DSOC 2130 Introduction to Social Science Research Methods (Offered Spring only)
  • GDEV/DSOC 3700 Comparative Social Inequalities (Offered Spring only, but in 2022-2023 only offered Fall 2022)
  • One statistics course (Most majors take AEM 2100, ILRST 2100/STSCI 2100 or MATH 1710)
  • Three additional elective DSOC courses, one of which must be at the 3000+ level
  • GDEV/DSOC 4700 Senior Capstone Course (Offered Spring only)

The elective courses allow students to focus on particular themes in either a domestic or international setting in such areas as:

  • Sociology of development
  • Social processes linking environment, population and development
  • Ethnic and class stratification
  • Social movements & policy
  • Gender
  • Development

Students are encouraged to complement major courses with course work in other disciplines such as natural resources, anthropology, economics, area studies, government and policy analysis and management.

DSOC 2010 Population Dynamics

The primary focus of this class is the relationships between demographic processes (fertility, mortality and immigration) and social and economic issues.

DSOC 2050 International Development

This course considers development as an evolving world project and from the perspective of its social and ecological impact: asking questions about costs and benefits of economic growth, about the global context (geo-political, institutional, production, consumption and discursive relations) and the sustainability of various models.

DSOC 3240 Environment and Society

A primary focus of the course will be the relationship between environmental and social problems as well as the many political ideologies, philosophies and movements that have continually redefined how we think of environment and sustainability.

Olaf F. Larson Merit Award in Development Sociology

This award was established to recognize academic achievement among juniors majoring in Development Sociology.  The selection of Larson Award winners is based on a review of the academic records of all second semester juniors, and on recommendations from the Development Sociology faculty. 

Dwight Sanderson Excellence Award

This award is given each year to a graduating senior for superior academic performance. The selection of the Sanderson Award winner is based on a review of the academic records of all graduating seniors and on letters of recommendation from Development Sociology faculty. 


The program is administered through the College's Social Sciences Research Honors Program and provides an opportunity for students to earn “distinction in research” honors.

Application Requirements and Procedures - CALS

The deadline is the sixth week of the first semester of senior year. Learn more about requirements and procedures for the CALS program.

Application Requirements and Procedures - Social Sciences

The deadline is mid-to-late September. Learn more about the requirements and procedures for the program.

Academic credit

  • May be earned for the honors program by enrolling in DSOC 4990, Independent Honors Research in Social Science during the fall and/or spring semesters of their senior year.
  • A maximum of 6 credits may be earned in DSOC 4990

Undergraduates can study anywhere in the world that is approved by their Faculty Advisor and College. Study in universities, improve language skills, conduct fieldwork, engage in service-learning, or participate in an internship. Financial aid travels with you for approved semester and yearlong programs, and there is additional funding available for study abroad experiences. You can browse programs and get more information through Cornell Global Learning and the CALS Exchange Program, but you should also schedule an appointment with an advisor in the CALS International Programs for Undergraduates office who can help you discover your international opportunity and negotiate the study abroad process. 

Here is a list of programs that Development Sociology majors have found especially meaningful:

CALS Exchange

Office of Global Learning: Over 300 CALS-approved study abroad programs!

CALS Global Fellows Program

Applications open each year in mid-December and close in early February. Visit the Global Fellows Program page to learn more.

Don't wait to start exploring career interests; make an appointment your first year with a CALS Career Development advisor and check out the Cornell Career Services resources in Barnes Hall. Find out what qualifications are preferred for jobs that interest you, and figure out which courses and opportunities at Cornell will help you gain those qualifications. Experience Cornell is a great website to discover opportunities that will give you real-world training. Create a Cornell Handshake profile to search for internships and jobs. Use Cvisors to connect with Cornell alumni who are willing to talk with you about their career, critique resumes, and participate in mock interviews. You can also apply to the Cornell Alumni Connections Program. Plan to use these resources throughout your years at Cornell.

Development Sociology will generally host at least one career development event per year, such as a roundtable discussion with current DSOC majors who've had successful internship experiences or a DSOC alumni career panel. Be on the lookout for emails from the DSOC Listserv about internships and other opportunities. Here's what other DSOC students have been up to.

Noteworthy internship opportunities: 

  • The Cornell Farmworker Program offers paid summer internships for Cornell students  who are interested in contributing in meaningful ways to research and educational outreach with farmworkers and farm owners. The application deadline for 2018 is February 26. 
  • The CALS Global Fellows Program supports CALS undergraduate students from any major in pursuit of challenging, professionally-focused summer internships that enhance and complement their career goals and academic progress, while enriching their undergraduate experience with diverse cultural and international immersion. 
  • The Atkinson Center Summer Internship Program offers paid internships with environmental advocacy groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Oceana. Applications open in February 2018.
  • Cornell in Washington gives students the opportunity to learn about the workings of government and the processes by which public policy is developed. There is both a semester-long and summer version of the program. Students work as an intern while taking classes and exploring Washington D.C.
  • Blumenthal Internship summer opportunities are available with non-profit agencies, many of which work on social justice issues. These are paid internships.
  • The ILR School hosts a Social Justice Career Fair each spring that brings to campus representatives from many advocacy organizations, including labor unions, nonprofits, worker centers, and NGOs. The 2018 fair will be held on Thursday, March 15 in the ILR Conference Center from 1:00-4:00 pm.


  • High-quality summer internships can be posted as early as October and may have deadlines as early as November-- start your search early, and check for new opportunities in spring.
  • In addition to browsing Cornell Handshake, peruse the Summer Experience Survey to learn from other students' previous internship experiences.
  • Students eligible for Federal Work Study can participate in the DYO Summer Internship Program, which reimburses your employer for a significant portion of your summer wages.
  • Talk with your faculty advisor or faculty whose research is of interest to you; they may know of opportunities you might not otherwise find out about.

Transfer Requirements

Contribute to understanding societal development and factors to solve social problems, both local and global, in a program that is well known for international, domestic, rural, environmental, agricultural, and population studies.

Academic Record

  • Strong academic record at the college level. In general, competitive applicants have at least a 3.0 (B) average.

  • CALS Required Coursework should be completed or in-progress with a “B” or better before applying.

  • The most competitive applicants are full-time students who have met the GPA and course requirements.

(Or transfers with two full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application).


Strongly encouraged (but not required):

  • One full academic year of Introductory Biology (labs recommended)

  • Either General (Inorganic) Chemistry I or Physics I (labs recommended

(Or transfers with four full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application).


  • One full academic year of Introductory Biology (labs not required)

  • Two College Writing/English Composition courses or one writing/composition and Public Speaking

  • Statistics

  • Introduction to Sociology

  • Either General (Inorganic) Chemistry I or Physics I (labs recommended)

Strongly encouraged (but not required):

Courses that meet the CALS social science and humanities requirements in Cultural Analysis, Historical Analysis, Knowledge, Cognition and Moral Reasoning, Literature and the Arts, Social and Behavioral Analysis and Foreign Language.

Careers in Development Sociology

A degree in Development Sociology provides you with the skills and training to critically diagnose, analyze, contribute to solutions and manage their implementation. These are skills that are foundational across job types and sectors.

Man working at a computer.


  • Program coordinator 
  • Project manager
  • President or Director
  • Community outreach specialist
  • Grassroots organizer

Academia & education

  • Professor or lecturer
  • Research associate
  • Elementary special education teacher
  • Teach for America teacher
  • Education coordinator
  • Citi Year Corps educator


  • Research aide or associate
  • Research special assistant
  • Sustainability research special assistant


  • Business partner
  • Business analyst
  • Sales field representative
  • Marketing account executive
  • Multicultural marketing manager
  • Healthcare consultant


  • Program manager or associate for organizations such as the United Nations or state, local or federal governments


  • Litigation paralegal
  • Paralegal
  • Environmental client development executive
  • Natural resources client development executive
  • Natural resources social science assistant
  • Social impact and philanthropy


To aid Cameroon students with test prep, earn their trust

When it comes to studying for their all-important baccalaureate exam, students in Cameroon are largely left to their own devices. Now a team of Cornell researchers wants to use those devices to help them prepare for the test.

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